PENNSYLVANIA FOSTER children take psychotropic medications and antipsychotics at a far higher rate than other youth in the state, a study released yesterday found.

School-aged children in foster care use psychotropic drugs meant to treat mental and behavior disorders at nearly three times the overall rate for youth in the state's Medicaid system, according to a study by the state Department of Human Services and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The study, which used Medicaid data from 2007-2012, found 43 percent of foster children ages 6-18 being given the medications, compared with 16 percent of the overall youth population.

"The research confirms our concerns and shows an unacceptable use of these medications for children in foster care," Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas said.

The rate for antipsychotics drugs, a subset of psychotropics used for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder other conditions, was four times higher for foster children - 22 percent vs. 5 percent, the study found.

More than half of youth antipsychotic users in the study had a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, but no other diagnosis that warranted the use of antipsychotics, the study revealed.

The study found the use of multiple classes of medications in combination occurred at a four times higher rate - 12 percent vs. 3 percent - for foster children than all youth in Medicaid and that foster children using psychotropic drugs were less likely to have visited a health care providers for their behavioral concerns.

It also found that children ages 3-5 used psychotropic medication and multiple classes of medications at a significantly lower rate, but that the rate for children in foster care was double the overall youth rate.